In this chapter, we will discuss how to breed and raise your corn snakes to keep or sell. Who knows, you may get someone else to start liking corn snakes too!
A successful breeding program begins with a healthy breeding pair. Females usually reach sexual maturity after 31 months, while the sexual maturity of males occurs after 18 months. The process by which you can identify whether a snake is a male or a female is called sexing.
Sexing can be done in either one of two ways: by cloacal popping or cloacal probing. Please take note that you should never sex hatchlings. They are very sensitive and delicate at this stage, and attempting to sex them can injure them severely.
Cloacal popping is done by applying pressure with the thumb just below the vent. This will cause the hemipenes of a male to avert, one on each side of the cloacal opening. Females, on the other hand, may avert her cloaca and erect her scent gland papillae.
Cloacal probing is the more commonly employed means of sexing. It is done by gently inserting a lubricated probe – a slender stainless steel – into the side of the vent, and then sliding them into the pockets that are found on either side of the tail. For males, the probe will slide to a depth of approximately 10 scales, while for a female; it will go for only 3 or 4 scales. Sometimes the probe will only go somewhere between these two ranges, and these are often classified as unsexed snakes. Probing isn’t always definitive or certain, and other factors may influence the result such as the pressure you exert on the probe, or something blocking the pockets so you could not insert the probe deep enough. It is essential that you don’t try to attempt to probe your snake if you do not have sufficient experience with sexing. A mistake here can injure and damage your snake, and there is always the chance that the results of your probe can be wrong.
More often than not, a determination of a snake’s sex can be established from their behavior. Males are generally more active than females. They also tend to refuse food during breeding time. But perhaps the best sign that your snake is a male is when he averts his hemipenes when he is defecating. When he sheds his skin, the hemipenes can be identified as two dried bits of skin at the vent – but which should not be confused with a small bump that can also show in the shed skin of females. Their tail shape can also differ, with the male’s being more parallel and bulbous, as opposed to the female’s tail which is more tapered in shape.
For a breeding pair, females should ideally be bigger and weightier than males. This is to allow them to have sufficient body weight that can undergo the stress of egg production. Females are usually paired only after they have reached 1,200 to 1,500 grams, which they can reach around the age of 3 or 4 years. Males, on the other hand, can be a lot younger and lighter; some use males that have reached 50 to 700 grams. The selected breeding pair must both be in good health, with good body weight and muscle tone.
Brumation is the term called for the cooling period that takes place in order to successfully breed Corn Snakes. The first thing to do to breed Corn Snakes is to start increasing their feeding pattern in late April in order to give your snake an extra fat reserves that they will be needing during brumation. Keep your heaters on in the month of May but cease feeding the snakes for at least 2-3 weeks before you cool them down so that the Corn Snakes can empty their digestive tracks. During brumation, any food leftover will rot in your Corn Snake’s stomach which then leads to a deadly infection.
During the month of June, you have to drop your Corn Snake’s cage temperatures from 50 to 68 degrees Celsius in a span of 2-3 months. The brumation temperatures can be slightly higher or lower than this. Around early September, you can now begin to slowly return back your Corn Snake’s summer temperature. Never heat your Corn Snakes up to quickly because this can affect your male snake’s fertility.